A LIFE-CHANGING new diet shown to put type 2 diabetes into remission has given hope to millions of people.
The Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial, or DiRECT, has been carried out in Scotland with a high success rate — and Professor Michael Lean, who heads the treatment, believes this proves the disease can be treated.
And earlier this month it emerged that thousands of people will now be prescribed the “life-changing programme” on the NHS.
Prof Lean says: “The treatment starts by putting patients on to a weight-loss plan of shakes and soups, 850 calories a day for 12 weeks.
“The weight loss reduces the level of fat inside the liver and pancreas, which is what puts the diabetes into remission.
“The critical next phase is to guide patients towards a ‘new normal’ eating plan of different foods from when they had diabetes.”
With type 2 diabetes costing the NHS £10billion every year, Prof Lean’s treatment could save vital funds, but more importantly, lives, so it is to be rolled out to around 5,000 patients in ten areas of the UK.
People who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the last six years will be considered for the diet.
Patients will still have to meet certain criteria before their GP can refer them.
Under the year-long plan, patients will be given shakes and soups for three months, as well as support to increase their exercise levels.
OBLIVIOUS TO THE RISK
They will also be given plans to re-introduce solid food, as well as support and virtual sessions with coaches and dietitians over the remaining months.
The diet is currently available across NHS trusts in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, Humber Coast and Vale, Greater Manchester, Frimley,
Gloucestershire, Derbyshire, Birmingham and Solihull, Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK), North East London and North Central London.
Nearly four million people in the UK are living with a form of diabetes and it is estimated that 90 per cent of them have type 2.
Type 2 diabetes is an incredibly serious condition — but unlike cancer it’s entirely reversible
Professor Michael Lean
Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is a serious, often life-long condition, it is widely accepted that type 2 diabetes is linked to lifestyle factors.
Being overweight, getting older and having high blood pressure all increase a person’s risk of developing the condition.
And despite the fact that it can cause strokes and heart disease, increasing the risk of heart attacks, still too many people are oblivious to the risk.
Prof Lean, from Glasgow University, tells The Sun: “There’s misinformation that diabetes isn’t too serious a condition to have, and you can live well with it by taking medication.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is that ten-year survival rates for breast cancer are better than they are for type 2 diabetes.
“You’re more likely to die younger, and with more pain and disabilities from type 2 than you are from breast cancer.
“It’s an incredibly serious condition — but unlike cancer it’s entirely reversible.”
So what is it like to live on a restrictive diet that cuts your calorie count to just 800 a day?
Here, three volunteers from Prof Lean’s studies share their journey into type 2 diabetes remission — having lost 12st between them.
‘I lost five stone in seven months and am no longer in danger zone’
IN just seven months, Edward McGeachie has reversed his type 2 diabetes and lost five stone – thanks to the trial.
The company director from Glasgow was diagnosed in January – but he thinks he had it “years before”.
A routine health check found he weighed 20 stone and that he had “through the roof” blood pressure and high blood sugar levels.
He emailed Prof Lean asking to take part in the trial after seeing it on the news and says the diet was “the easiest thing I’ve ever done”.
Edward, 54, says: “I was in a critical condition when I started.
“I was probably a few years away from a massive heart attack and morbidly obese – I had nowhere to go.
“I was in the danger zone and it was all the motivation I needed.”
He was so dedicated to the trial that when he went on holiday to Malaga in February he took his blender with him.
Edward says: “Within a few months I was told I’d extended my life expectancy by ten years.
“Knowing I’ve made such huge changes to my health has been incredible. It has been life-changing in every way.”
Edward put solid food back into his diet in June and is like a new man.
“I’m healthier, fitter, I go to the gym, I’ve got more energy, I’ve stopped snoring – which pleased my wife – and all the health and weight related issues are gone.
“I’ve learned so much about food, I won’t ever eat in the same way again.”
‘I’m healthier and fitter than I’ve ever been – the trial changed my life’
YEARS of travelling with work and having little time to exercise meant Eddie Morrison’s weight crept up and up, reaching 18 stone.
In December 2010 at the age of 55, a routine medical at work showed he was suffering type 2 diabetes, and he started on medication.
After five years on drugs, it was the birth of his granddaughter Lucy that was the final straw for Eddie.
While his condition wasn’t debilitating, he could see a future plagued with serious health concerns.
When his GP told him about the DiRECT trial in August 2015, he realised it was too good an opportunity to miss.
The retired fuels logistics manager says: “A few months into the treatment, I’d already lost two stone – it was the incentive I needed to carry on.”
Now 13st 2lb, Eddie, from Glasgow, weighs the same as he did in his 20s. He is medication-free and his type 2 diabetes is in remission.
He says: “The dietitians taught me about weighing food and what a balanced plate looks like. And by January 2016, I was down to 13st 6lb and needed a whole new wardrobe.”
Eddie is still on the trial now, and his weight has stayed even despite the odd blow out to celebrate beers with friends after a game of golf, or birthday cake with his granddaughter.
He says: “I never thought when I had the diagnosis, after years on medication, I’d be in remission, medication-free and walking up to 100 miles a week but I’m fitter and healthier than ever and it’s all because my GP gave me the chance to take part in a trial that changed my life.”
Different types of diagnosis
DIABETES is a serious condition where a person’s blood sugar level is too high.
Type 1 diabetes is where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, meaning the body can no longer make the hormone.
But type 2 is a bit different – it can be prevented and treated.
If you have type 2 it means your body can’t make enough insulin, or that insulin can’t work properly.
But why is insulin so important?We all need some glucose (sugar) in our blood, and we get that from food – it gives us energy.
Once it’s broken down, it is released into the bloodstream.
From there insulin acts like a key, unlocking the door to our cells and letting the glucose in to fuel our bodies.
But if that insulin doesn’t work, and the key doesn’t fit, the glucose has nowhere to go and builds up in the blood, causing a spike in sugar levels.
Over a long period of time, left untreated, this can cause serious damage to your heart, eyes, kidneys and other organs – causing heart disease among other complications.
‘I didn’t think diabetes was reversible, let alone in such short time’
A ROUTINE blood test led to Beverly Iceton being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in October 2018.
But within months, she said the drugs she was taking for it stopped her sleeping and she constantly felt sick.
Bev, 57, was desperate for a place when she came across the trial online in February 2019.
“Most likely I had had it for a few years by the time I was diagnosed,” says the admin assistant.
“I tried different medications but my quality of life wasn’t great and the side effects were getting tougher to deal with.”
Other trials had morbidly obese participants but this one wanted to replicate the results in people with a BMI below 27 – overweight is 25 to 29.9 – who had diabetes for less than six years.
Bev, from Barnard Castle, Co Durham, says: “Living on 850 calories a day in shakes and soups for eight weeks sounds restrictive, and when you tell people, they say they could not do it but it’s about far more than just shakes.
“The support, the re-education, the accountability – it changes the way you see food.
“Within eight weeks of starting the trial, I was down from 12st 5lb to 10st 5lb, my bloods showed I was in remission and I’ve stayed that way ever since.
“I look at food so differently now but I can treat myself or have a blow out.
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“It’s just on occasion – once every couple of months.
“I didn’t think it was possible to reverse diabetes, let alone in such a short space of time.
“I can’t thank the team enough.”
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